After a few minutes, I decided that I was done with dishpan hands. I took a break and scrolled through Facebook, only to find a very disturbing post from an old college friend. I won't go into the details of what happened over the course of the next nerve-wracking and stomach-sinking hour and a half, but I will let you know that he is currently and thankfully okay.
I was thinking about my friend this morning as I turned on my car CD player. The CD that was queued up was a "mix tape" made for me by my BFF in 2007. It's been a long time since I listened to that particular CD, and I didn't really remember which songs she thought to include. Soon, I heard the familiar sound of the oldie-but-goodie Indigo Girls song "Closer to Fine," one of my favorite songs in the whole wide world. I usually belt it out at top volume while smirking at the thought of breaking through chains gripped by a self-absorbed academic with a beard down to his knees (I may have spent a tad too long in grad school...). This morning, though, something else stood out.
The line, "darkness has a hunger that's insatiable, and lightness has a call that's hard to hear" came at me like thunder. I talk a lot about how doing good things makes a difference, and how every little bit of good creates a ripple effect that leaves everyone better off. While I firmly ascribe to that truth, I also realize how very quietly good can speak. Frequently, people describe living with a mental illness as a constant struggle with darkness. The darkness seems all-encompassing, hungry, and unrelenting. Darkness also sounds deafening. The volume of mental illness isn't measured in decibels, but rather in displacement. The power behind the voices in darkness is in their ability to block out, silence, and displace what is good. Lightness has a call that's hard to hear.
Those who find themselves gripped by the darkness are traveling roads that are often traumatically arduous. It can be difficult to visualize how to help, how to lighten loads, and how to illuminate lights at the end of tunnels. But know this... each one of us can help to amplify light. We can be supportive to any and everyone who struggles in the darkness by staying focused on the good. Each one of us routinely interacts with people who are fighting significant battles. Sometimes those people are even ourselves. Simple things like making eye contact, giving friendly nods, offering smiles, sharing supportive words, and using a kind tone of voice all matter... to everyone. Doing small acts of kindness matter. Being polite matters. Taking a moment to congratulate others on their achievements and their talents matters. Expressing gratitude matters. Sure, these things don't eradicate darkness, but they do help us notice that the light is there and whispering.
The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine. We're all on winding paths, and for many, our journeys will be through dark places. I don't have any definitive solutions, but I can promise all struggling people that I will try to do my part... for them, for us, and for me. Let us greet and hold each other in light, my friends.